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Hadrian was emperor at the very height of the Imperial Period (117–138 CE). He was selected to rule the Roman Empire because of his personal skills rather than his ancestry. One of the most well-traveled and cosmopolitan Roman emperors, he made two journeys around the empire during his reign. He is remembered for his love of the Greek world, particularly its arts and architecture. Portraits of reigning emperors ensured that Roman citizens knew what their ruler looked like, and were widely distributed throughout the empire. This portrait of Hadrian would have been inserted into a carved bust and prominently displayed. The beard Hadrian wore (allegedly to conceal blemishes), started a trend among emperors that endured up to the 3rd century CE. This head was damaged and has not been repaired. Although it was once fashionable to replace all the “missing” parts of statues, we cannot be sure these later additions give an accurate idea of how the sculpture originally appeared. It is now considered best practice to leave fragments as they were found. ca. 130 CE

Publication Date



RISD Museum


Providence, Rhode Island


Rhode Island School of Design Museum; Roman; emperor; Imperial Period; portrait



Portrait of Hadrian

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Sculpture Commons



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